Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Fifty New Summer Experiences

My friend Julia was wondering via Facebook how to celebrate the last summer of her forties and a friend replied, "Make a list of 49 little things you want to do before summer ends."

What a great idea!

I'm also turning fifty this year (whoot, whoot!) and I've got lots of fun plans for the last few days of summer, but the whole summer has been so lovely so far, I thought I'd try to make my list about all the new experiences I had!

1.  Enjoyed one of the best Summer Nights at Brookfield Zoo! Stilt walkers, magicians, jugglers, bubbles, toddlers dancing to a great live cover band on the green and a guy with handlebar moustache riding a Ye Olde Bicycle with a giant front wheel and tiny back wheel. Oh yeah, animals too! Thanks, Brookfield Zoo!

2.    Camped out overnight in the back yard (thanks for the tent loan, Jennifer!)

3.    Make chocolate chip pancakes (with milk chocolate, not semi-sweet!) on a Thursday morning.

4.    Enjoyed the waffles my nine-year-old made ALL BY HERSELF! (From scratch!)

5.    Biked with the family from Navy Pier to 18th Street Beach.

6.    Suessical the Musical at Navy Pier!

7.    Walked the Wrigley outfield in a Girl Scout parade!

8.    Got caught on TV with Nora at the Sox game shimmying to ACDC's "You Shook Me All Night Long" (for reals!)

9.    Played trampoline dodge ball and loved it.

10.  Kane County Cougars!

11.  Kale salad at hot hot Beatrix. (I passed on their $9 cup of buttered coffee, ha!)

12.  Learned to play the card game Coconut, played countless games with the girls.

13.  Celebrated 14 years of marriage and 18 years of Randy's Optimus partnership.

14.  Celebrated friends Natasha and Kerry's birthdays and...

15.  At Natasha's, made a new friend! Hey, hey, Jeannine! Who partied with me at...

16.  Pitchfork! New appreciation for the rhythmic charms of TuneYards, the stunning stage presence of St. Vincent and the young crowd singing lustily along with every twenty-year old Neutral Milk Hotel song.

TuNeYaRds!! (or a title something like that)

17.  Also at Natasha's fete, discovered Vivian Maier's work and a great film about her discovery.

18.  Rode bikes with the girls to the pool for the first time!

19     Rode bikes with the girls to the beach for the first time! Discovered Artisanal is a great stop to pick up our favorite picnic munchies (fresh baguettes and salted butter, strawberry milk and bananas.)

20.  Moved our lake house party into a closet with family and friends during a thunderstorm warning and tornado watch.

21.  Hongos tacos and horchata milkshake at Antique Taco!

22.  Introduced my visiting 16-year-old niece (or to be technical, my cousin's granddaughter) to the affordable delights of Crossroads Trading Company...

23. Where I found a cute pair of red and white polka dot platform heels!

24. Overcame my initial squeamishness to take the girls and their cousin to Hurricane Harbor, the water park at Six Flags. Surprise! It's clean! With vigilant lifeguards! And no crowds at the end of the day!

25. Shared in the vicarious delights of introducing same 16-year-old to her first trip to Panera, first taxi ride and first attempt at paddle boarding on wavy Lake Michigan! (Thanks for the board loan, Kristen!)

26. Dared to try Taste of Chicago with three girls in tow. Mixed results, but Nora's daddy was able to pick up my overtired little one who didn't quite understand the concept of standing and eating. Tried my first Rainbow Cone!

27. Picked strawberries and raspberries with the girls, sister-in-law Rebecca and niece and nephew Jessica and Dylan.

28. Discovered to my shock and a flush of bittersweet memory that we were driving through Tom Waits' Johnsburg, Illinois on the way to strawberries.

29. Made strawberry ice cream with our Tom Waits berries.

30. Since Mia is at that weird in-between children's and teens sizes (and styles), I tried Plato's Closet consignment and found a couple of XS skirts that fit! #economizing

31. A funny and odd puppet production of Edward Gorey's works at the downtown Loyola art museum. Discovered Gorey lived in Wilmette! And attended middle school on the site of what is now Howard Park, only blocks from out house!

32. Grew my window box flowers from seed instead of dropping hundreds at Chalet for perfect seedlings. #economizing

Nasturtium, Black eyed Susan vine, Marigold

33. A Midsummer Night's Dream in the park! Finally understood the plot, thanks to a crystal clear and very funny production from Chicago Shakespeare Theater.

34. Doughssant at West Town Bakery, yum! The strawberry version of their donut-croissant hybrid is lovely; the s'mores version is an indulgence.

35. Read great books including: All the Light We Cannot See, Eleanor and Park, The One and Only Ivan, The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks. Read a crappy book called California that needed much more work. Joined a book club! (Thanks, Aimee!)

36. Circo Nacional de Puerto Rico and Theater Oobleck in Humboldt Park with Julie on violin and new friends from San Juan. Clowns and orchestra and audience, we were all adrift on an imaginary ocean liner without captain or power, our cruise director growing more disheveled as the tumblers tried to entertain and the growly first mate warned us not to go through THE RED DOOR! A delight at twilight on the soft grass, set to the music of my favorite, Nino Rota. Our favorite moment of the play was when Dave the clarinet player's eight and ten-year-olds were introduced as two of the ship's feral children, complete with fake black eyes and stage blood. They raised their fists and dared anyone to criticize their rough and tumble version of Cinderella, then did some impressive stage fighting until the first mate appeared to separate them. The two little ones turned on him and chased across the grass at which point a kid in the audience  jumped up to join them, followed by the entire front row of kids, screaming. The tiny maniacs ran him off into the bushes, then around back again, the cruise director looked genuinely flummoxed trying to get everyone seated again and the entire play stopped in its tracks as the rest of us roared with laughter.

37. Seven glorious episodes of The Story of Film: An Odyssey.

38. Laughed and giggled at dear old friend Clark clowning in a four-actor production of The 39 Steps.

39. Took Sweetie and Buddy along with Mia and Nora to the Army Navy Surplus on Lincoln for camping equipment. Ooed and ahed over the cardboard helicopter from a production of Miss Saigon.

40. Blaze Pizza! Pizza in 180 seconds!

41. Cheered friend Julie and her rockin' ensemble Girl Group at Wicker Park Fest! Screamed for more after another great set on the dirty streets of Northalsted Market Days. Fell in love with the driving 6/6 time and hypnotic minor key of "Sweet and Tender Romance."

42.  Got big laughs from the crowd when I called for the Fox Lake Girl Scouts to use their Supersoakers on me as their float drove by in the 4th of July parade. They complied, I got soaked and then handed two boxes of Samoas for the trouble. Worth it!

43. Took the girls and Mia's friend camping at Warren Dunes! No electricity except for the charger in my car dashboard. (Thanks for the tent loan, Deweys!) Had a wonderful reunion with dear cousin Sally, who I've missed so much!

44. Cheered Nora drumming and singing! with her two rock bands. "Crazy Train" was the best!

45. Planned a Fey family reunion at the lake for Labor Day weekend!

46. Watched a simulcast of the West End play The Audience in the freaky aluminum explosion that is the Jay Pritzker Pavilion at Millennium Park.

47. Chicago Symphony Orchestra at Ravinia played the music of Lerner and Lowe! Heavenly lawn seats with rented chair and table, soft blanket and snacks, little girls happy to read their comic books while Mommy swooned to the music.

48. Learned to play Mah Jong! Won a couple of rounds! (Thanks, Michele!)

49. Wrote two new and (I hope) funny songs for the 2015 Variety Show.

50. Sneaked in quick visits with dear nieces Maggie, Hilary and Andrea, was completely charmed by Andrea's fiance's little boy Damien.

Whew! I'm exhausted! It's harder work to remember our summer than it was to live it! My takeaway? Deep gratitude for dear friends and family, for our health and good fortune, for the time and energy to be Camp Mommy director for our little girls and more appreciation for the dear teachers who will take over the job next week.